Date: 17 Nov 13
By: Frank Gue, B.Sc., MBA, P.Eng.,
2252 Joyce St., Burlington, ON L&R 2B5,
905 634 9538, ‘<firstname.lastname@example.org>
For: Producers and Mary, CBC Radio 1 FreshAir
Re: Your segment this morning on overstress/suicide/etc.
A comment of mine. Filename: CBC re overstress (Lexar)
This note has two points: (a) a comment on a current sociological problem and (b) a suggestion for another program at another time. Please read this with both points in mind.
I am in my 89th year. I have seen, experienced, analyzed, and published on more of the human experience than have most folk. This will become apparent.
The “stress” that is increasingly being reported is the cumulative effect of several megatrends converging over a period of time (roughly two generations) that is too short to permit humans to change. Among these megatrends:
1. Early education. We received our public school educations in the 1930s in Alberta. We were far better educated in Alberta then than are students in Ontario now. Result: noncompetence (a word I have carefully constructed to emphasize that it is not a personal inadequacy) in ordinary affairs of life, such as reading and number work. Effect: Feelings of inadequacy when faced with the demands of skilled trades, college, university, or life itself.
- Training of educators. As Chair of a Curriculum Advisory Committee, I studied
Ontario public school curricula, sat in alternative school rooms, and heard explanations of such subjects as constructivism and direct instruction. Result: I am convinced that, adhering strictly to Ontario’s public school curricula, it is not possible to educate a capable student to the level traditionalists (and employers, parents, university presidents, etc.) expect and is needed for full functioning and full enjoyment of everyday life. Effect: Mature citizens encounter huge gaps in their knowledge of ordinary subjects, suffering mischance, accidents, and repeated embarrassment.
- Selection and retention of educators. Top educational administrations such as
Finland’s require that teachers have masters degrees in their subjects. There are as many as ten applicants for each modestly paid teaching position. The public regards teachers with as much trust and confidence as “engineers, doctors, and pastors”. Teachers are appraised for results and poor performers are released. In contrast, teacher recruitment in Canada, the US, and much of Europe, is much less rigorous. Performance appraisal is infrequent, tending to be soft and subjective. It is nearly impossible, thanks to union contracts, to release a low-performing teacher. Result: As is well documented, poor teaching results in high dropout rates and tragically poor student accomplishment. Effect: Too-high a proportion of citizens cannot fill available good jobs or enjoy life fully, and are candidates for crime and prison (the percentage of badly educated or uneducated prisoners in jails is far higher than in the outside population).
- Expectations (i). Since WWII, few Canadians live in grinding poverty or do heavy
physical work 24/7 on a farm. The connection has been lost between digging potatoes in the afternoon and eating potatoes that night. Mom and Dad go to work, and they have money: the child sees little connection between the two. Mom buys Johnny things he gets just for asking. Result: there is an expectation at an early age that, “I want it all and I want it now”. Effect: Among many ordinary citizens there is a subconscious feeling of entitlement to things the citizen has not necessarily earned.
- Expectations (ii). For several generations, offspring have come to expect to be
better-off than their parents because of rapidly improving productivity (production per man-hour) and demographics. The improvements from these factors are dropping rapidly. Result: The “next generation” cannot now expect automatically to be better off than their parents, and indeed may be poorer, but in the main do not yet recognize this. Effect: Resentful surprise, unwise overspending on housing, more bankruptcies, envy and rage leading to criminality, much else.
6. The sexual revolution. It is no longer necessary to link intimacy with commitment, to assume that youth is the childbearing age, or to observe such quaint customs as chivalry. Hedonism appears to be overtaking happiness as a life objective. Result: The proven long-term societal stability of the family is being lost. Effect: Concepts like dedication, idealism, and love, which drive livable societies, are being lost.
7. Technology. – such as the internet, has made possible huge industries like finance, much of whose activity is No Value Added (NVA). NVA industries employ millions of people who are paid salaries so that they can buy many goods and services to which they have contributed no direct or indirect effort of hand or mind. Result: Much human life is parasitic. Effect: The economic pie comprising the total of consumable goods and services must be cut into smaller slices for each participant.
- Overcrowding. In a village, everyone knows that the blacksmith will pay his bills but
the baker may not; yet on the whole, the village is peaceful, personal, and pleasant. In a city, invisibility and anonymity make room for criminal cunning and brutal theft. Since villages vanish and cities grow, life in cities becomes more stressful as the decades roll by. Result: Life for more people becomes more stressful with time. Effect: More road rage, less common courtesy, less security, more fear and anxiety, more agoraphobia.
- The bottom line: For the first time in history this large number of stressful
agents has converged. This leads, in severe cases, to panic and despair. Folk suscep-tible to stress will crack; some will choose to end the pain by taking their own lives.
– end –